Saturday, July 12, 2014

Round Numbers and Linear Intersects

Elizabeth blogged about her thoughts about the Andersonville Raiders, who were executed 150 years ago yesterday.  Elizabeth has been doing a lot of research on the raiders - who seem to be everywhere in the primary source materials while at the same time seeming to not exist.  She asks, "Who Hallows?" these places, men, and stories? But I thought I'd take a moment and share my thoughts.

Yesterday afternoon I was driving back from Atlanta, where I helped lead a teacher's workshop on teaching Andersonville and the prisoner of war experience.  We got back around 5:30pm after the park was already closed, but had to go into the park in order to get my car and sign some travel related paperwork.  We know from prisoner's diaries that these six men were hanged in the stockade at around 5:00pm.  Given that daylight savings time wasn't a thing back then, it meant that I was on the site about 30 minutes before the 150th anniversary of the exact moment of the execution.  So I walked out to the south field of the prison site, and paced off the 100 yards from the south gate to the spot where the gallows were constructed (which, incidentally was probably about 100-150 feet farther south than where a white post marker has stood since the 1930s that supposedly marks the spot of the gallows).  And I stood there and waited.  It was surprisingly noisy - the rumble of the trucks on the highway and the staccato of the nearby gun range.  A strong wind blew, filling my ears with a whoosh and mercifully keeping the gnats at bay.  A lot of birds (presumably sparrows, but I don't know.  My knowledge of nature is famously lacking for a park ranger) flew overhead chirping away.  It was partly cloudy, yielding a gray and pink sky with pockets of blue as the afternoon turned into early evening.  It was actually really nice.  I forgot where I was for a moment.  Then I looked down at my phone and realized that it was right at 6:00, and I thought about 12 feet dangling in the space my face occupied, which admittedly made me feel a little uncomfortable, but just for a moment.
The exact moment and location where the raiders were hanged.

But here's the thing.  I didn't feel anything. No emotional connection.  No period rush.  No sense of awe that I was in a spot where something important happened exactly 150 years ago to the exact moment.  There are people who would almost have killed to be standing where I was at that moment.  That exact moment of 150th anniversary Civil War Sesquicentennial is never coming back - it's gone forever.  And I didn't feel it.

What is it about round numbers that make people feel the past?  July 1-3, 2013 there were probably more visitors in Gettysburg for the 150th than there were soldiers who fought there.  My Facebook newsfeed exploded with history stuff those few days last summer. But July 1-3, 2014 for the 151st?  Crickets.  Looking at Gettysburg's Facebook page, they shared some photos of ranger programs (that appeared to be about 1/8th as well attended for the 150th).  I think the only interpretive commentary I saw that noted it was the battle anniversary was this blog by good friend John Rudy.  So what is it that makes us care about the 150th but not the 151st?  What is it that would make some people jealous that I stood in the spot of the raiders gallows at Andersonville at the exact moment of the 150th anniversary?  That field is still there today, on July 12.  Heck.  It'll still be there on a Tuesday in January if you'd like to wait for cooler weather.   When we get caught up with anniversaries, we forget that those anniversaries mean something to us.  I got so wrapped up in thinking about how cool it would be to stand there at the exact moment, that I forgot to ponder what that exact moment meant to the men who stood on that field and what it means to us today.  And I drove home unsatisfied and thinking about what I would cook for supper.

Interpreting the past does not require us to focus on specific moments.  Sure the events happened at a specific moment, but we get to come to those events at times of our choosing.  Of our convenience.  Events happen at a fixed point, and then memories and meanings radiate in a linear fashion onward through the years.  We can intersect that with that at any moment we chose.

Next week I'll be in the Harper's Ferry/Gettysburg area.  No.  I won't be there for any important anniversaries round numbers or anniversaries.  But I don't have to be.


As usual - the commentary expressed in this blog does not reflect the thoughts & opinions of my employers, and this was written on personal time at home.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Hallow Ye

The digital copy of Glazier's book is here. 


Who hallows?

The 150th anniversary commemorations for a place like Andersonville last for months. The anniversary dates generally include the events that took place during the time it the prison was open and operating (a fifteen-month stretch), not necessarily the impact of those events that would follow in the months and years after the prison closed.  Our history books provide compact time frames, a "start" and "end" time for these events. Generally, it is easier to wrap our minds around time if it is a focused point.

Fifteen months spans a great deal of time. For folks trying to fit this particular prison story into a grander Civil War narrative, it is often summed up in a sentence or two. What do most people know about the place? Poor living conditions, lots of Union soldiers were there, people died, Providence Spring, the Raiders hung, and Wirz was a scapegoat.* (I am being exceedingly generous here- I am happy to talk to people and they even recognize the name of the place as a part of the American Civil War). Some of these events of that 15-month-long narrative are remembered and told as focal points of the Andersonville story. It helps pinpoint times. It helps make the fifteen months seem conceivable. Events provide means of telling stories (because "we woke up and attempted to survive for the 84th day in a row" doesn't make for an engrossing story).

These "highlights" of a longer narrative become not just places along the timeline to tell stories, but they provide entry points for commemoration to happen. One story gets told and retold, maybe exaggerated, and retold and shared and pronounced and exclaimed and told again! Then it becomes more important than all the other days because people know of it. People know it. Are the events truly significant? Or just memorable? Why do we choose to hallow a place? Or a time?

The landscape in the national cemetery even tells that these six have a story.
Seven score and ten years ago ON THIS DAY six men hung from a roughly-built gallows amongst the crowded prison population at Andersonville. Prisoners watched. Guards watched. One prisoner wrote he could not stomach the sight and hid himself in the crowd. These men were accused of stealing and murder. They were buried in six graves isolated from the rest of the Union graves at the cemetery.

Seven score and ten years ago ON THIS DAY dozens of other men died at Andersonville, too. Disease, starvation, and wounds ultimately ended their lives. Why do six men whose lives ended by way of a rope get remembered and not these other men? The men who rotted to death were not accused criminals. The men who quietly slipped into eternity better represent the 13,000 other souls who perished during their time at Andersonville. Why did soldiers at the prison camp make note of July 11, 1864? It "was a day of unusual excitement," according to Robert H. Kellogg. Soldiers witnessed an event completely out of the ordinary and it stuck in their memories.

Information about the Raiders is still fairly limited, so historians can not just say "the Raiders were guilty" or "they were bad guys" or "this is who they were before the war" or "their deaths were justified" or "they were victims." But the six isolated graves today provoke questions. The unusual excitement of the day echoed loudly into the years following the end of the war. The story of this hanging has evolved into one of the most significant points of the Andersonville narrative.

So we remember the hanging. But they weren't the only ones who lost their lives on July 12th in Camp Sumter at Andersonville. Nor were they the only soldiers punished for their crimes within the camp. We like stories, however. The end of their lives makes for a good story. Their story echoes loudly from the stockade walls that once stood. While their separated burial sites indicate dishonor, they rest in a place people continue to hallow.

Ponder that. Who hallows? Who hallows ground, who hallows people? We make choices in how we frame stories and situations and what we choose to remember. In this case, we don't hallow the Raiders but this is an anniversary date of a widely-told story from they place. So, they are remembered. Do we unintentionally hallow these six men by thinking of them on this anniversary day?







*To paraphrase a friend of mine: every time that somebody says "Wirz was a scapegoat," an historian loses her wings. So just stop it. Want to learn more about Wirz, including the most recent of research? Read this.

**I think the story of the Raiders is far more complex then "bad guys hung" but I am doing research on them. I sometimes forget my own objectivity while researching because so much poor scholarship exists that I want to "make it right." Is this hallowing? I don't know.

***My own opinions. My own time. Like always.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Never Let it Rest

"Good, better, best. 
Never let it rest, 
until your good is better 
and your better, best."

I had to write that over and over in fifth grade. It was part penmanship, part memorization. Obviously, the exercise worked for me; the verse stuck.

Yesterday, I wrote about doing better. We keep trying the same programs and we keep getting the same results. It's so weird how that happens.

I was reminded that I can do better, too. Never let it rest.

At what point did you attend an interpretive program and it moved you? I don't mean when did you attend an interpretive program "and it was pretty good." I mean it knocked your socks off. It rattled your brain. It sparked a connection and you thought "aha!" It gave you goosebumps. It made you chew on a new idea for days. You can train people to project their voices, to look at the audience, even to deliver a program without reading notes. That's pretty good. But how can you develop a program that goes beyond that?

Look! A cave cricket!  
I once attended a wild cave tour at Mammoth Cave National Park. I'm not going to lie: I was absolutely terrified about the idea. Six hours "exploring" parts of the cave not open entirely to the public. But it was for a friend's birthday and I had already committed. We crawled. We crouched. We reached. We scooched. We stretched. After the six hours, I was absolutely enthralled. I made it! And the experience was amazing! While the whole trip was fun, there was one moment that was particularly memorable.

The interpreter was there to guide us (safely) through the caverns. He showed us pieces of the cave that demonstrated the ecology of the cave. He even relayed ideas of why caves are important to humans. The neatest moment, however, happened when we sat. We had been crawling for hours. The previously nervous souls [aaa-me-choo] were feeling pretty confident at that point. Yeah, buddy. Caves aren't so scary after all. Just watch out for those cave crickets.

This is my "I conquered a scary cave tour" face.
Earlier we had passed traces of people passing through from over one-hundred and fifty years prior. We got to a more vertical space with a rock landing and the guide had us sit down. Just sit, let's take a moment. At that point, he proceeded to turn out all the lights.

He had us sit in the dark for a while. In silence. We were deep in the belly of the earth. The individuals of the group could make their own connections to the space. The time it took to slowly etch this twisted, gnarly hole in the ground was practically inconceivable. The silent, pitch-black minutes seemed to stretch into the eternity that created the cave when a voice began singing:

"Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain.
For purple mountains majesty, above the fruited grain.
America, America, God shed His grace on Thee.
And crown thy good, with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea."

The guide began the song. By the end, the group had joined in the verse. We sat again in silence a few more moments before he lit his lantern and we ventured forth to end the tour.

We shared a moment with eternity in that space.

I have visited Mammoth Cave several times; I love it. That particular trip was a blast, too, as I went camping with my best friend and made memories. But the event that still has me contemplating is that dark, unexpected moment. The guide made unconventional decisions to instill wonder, awe, and pride. I now consider Mammoth Cave my Mammoth Cave and encourage people to visit regularly. That guide's interpretative methods filled my heart and connected me to that place, that space, and the stories held within.

I always want to do better. What methods can I utilize to encourage a better connection to a place for visitors? What methods can you use?

Never let it rest.




*As always, written on my own time. Views are my own and do not reflect any of my employers (past or present).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Same-Ol-Same-Ol Trap

I wear many hats. Among them include interpreter, historian, tour guide, tour manager, and the public relations department for my mom's quilting company. In order to help her business grow, I follow a great deal of creative folk on various media outlets so I can keep up with trends. While following some of these folks, sometimes I get a little bit jealous. These bloggers can share about color trends and the newest tool and nobody gets upset. In fact, the majority of the creative souls I follow online are inspiring. Inspiration fuels the creators and their audiences.

Tyler Knott Gregson is one of my all-time favorite inspirers. 

I, on the other hand, chose a field that becomes incredibly personal for many people. I decided to blog about history and how we tell stories and how people receive stories and and how visitors frame the stories and the sites within their own world. I do this while investigating my own understanding within the field. I follow contemporary trends as a means to equip my toolbox. These tools might evolve, but the stories are always there. I don't want to know "how can we engage more?" I want to know "how can we engage mo' better?" Our job is not just to discover stories, but to also build them into meaningful pieces that audiences will carry with them. Why should visitors care about a place? Why should Americans care about their historic sites? I happened to chose blogging as an outlet, an expression, for my own understanding of what interpreters of historic sites should be doing or could be doing better.

Writing about this season's color trends would not be so antagonizing, I am thinking.

So when I write about what folks in my field are doing, it is my own examination. Today, I have another examination. So here I go. I think many planners at historic sites fall too quickly into the same-ol-same-ol trap. The events of the American Civil War sesquicentennial serve as a fine example of this. We do the same ol' things and attract the same ol' audiences. This ses-qwee-centennial has been in "full swing" for three years now. We still have a year of commemorations remaining (and then some... the events of the war echo beyond the surrender at Appomatox Court House). We had a full four years of opportunity to revise and try new ways of programming. So why are these events, "Signature" and otherwise, still trying the same things? Cannons! Wool uniforms! Lectures! These will bring all the boys to the yard! No, really.

As it so happens, the most recent of Civil War anniversary commemorations occurred at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park this weekend. The commemorations were filled with things like talks. Walks. Lectures. Battle maneuvers. [White] guys in wool. [White] gals in hoop skirts. CANNONS. Now, I will say this: This is quite possibly the first time I (personally) have seen kids encouraged to line up and pretend to fire at each other. I suppose we can call it kinesthetic learning:



Post by Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.

So I guess in a way, they are trying something new (actually, not new- I know most Civil War-related sites in some way or another attempt to outfit children as soldiers, whether kids put on a wool jacket in the museum or march around with wooden muskets). In my opinion, however, this mistreats the past as poorly as the exclamation point at the end of a "Be a Slave for a Day" living history program. Now, because I am only a visitor from afar (a point the social media crew acknowledged by asking "where are you viewing these photos from"... clearly, they understood the importance of not just taking dozens of pictures but incorporating meaning into the shared photos, too), I can only assess what I see with the accompanying photo comment. Maybe there was an interpreter on hand to use this moment to share about war, death, fear, homesickness, or tragedy. Maybe that accompanying interpreter shared how these things happened at many battlefields and ravaged the nation. Maybe that interpreter shared how these things ultimately freed over four million enslaved people. People! That's a large population of people. The American Civil War challenged and redefined what freedom meant in this country. Teaching kids how to be infantrymen is an excellent way to encourage these ideas, right?

(I'd use the comments of the photo to decipher what was really going on in the image, but your guess is as good as mine.)

Thinking of large populations of people, Atlanta has one. Over six million people live in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Cobb county (where Kennesaw is located) has a population about 690,000. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park boasts being the largest contiguous green space in the Atlanta-metro area (they attract a lot of runners for this reason). Thinking back to what I said earlier about same-ol-same-ol traps, it looks like Kennesaw fell into one. Just look:

From Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park's Facebook.
There are many more where this came from.
You can scroll through any number of the park's albums shared on Facebook from this past weekend. Look at the audience. Pay particular attention to the demographics of the audience. If we think about the vast number of people in the Atlanta-metro area, and if we think about the diverse population of the Atlanta-metro area, we have to wonder why doesn't the audience demographic better represent the local population? I am going to use my same-ol-same-ol argument. We still give the same programs, we still draw the same (dwindling) audiences.

Gosh. That girl repeats herself a lot.

I wouldn't share if I didn't care. There are only a few months left of that magical "150" number that inspire these programs. But we still have countless chances to try new types of programming, to inspire visitors, to engage new audiences. And as far as the Civil War sites go, I would argue that the years following the war are more crucial in shaping our nation than the battles themselves. We have plenty of time left for inspiring hearts.

Or do we?





*All opinions here are my own, written in my own time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pandering to Audiences


Pander. 


What does that mean? The earliest use of the word (Shakespeare's era and writings) meant "pimp." The word evolved and now the dictionary defines said word as "to gratify or indulge" or "to cater to." Wikipedia has an entire page dedicated to "pander (politics)." That page defines the act as "the act of expressing one's views in accordance with the likes of a group to which one is attempting to appeal."  

My question for you interpreter types: when does knowing your audience and reaching your audience become pandering? At what point is a historic site pandering to its current, limited audience rather than encouraging new audiences or inspiring new interests among that current audience? 

Sorry, Civil War Battlefields. I have to pick on you because you are the places I am most familiar with, most passionate about, and will ultimately have the most criticism for. As it turns out, you tend to demonstrate some of the best examples of pandering, too. 





Guys. You already have an audience. What does this post really do? Start a debate? A conversation? So what? If you can't really answer the "so what" question, you might have to push yourself a little more. And maybe I shouldn't pick on poor Gettysburg here. They are only followed by 25,000 people on Facebook, serve as the most-recognized battle of the Civil War, and now stand as the #1 landmark as designated by TripAdvisor.

I also understand that during the Civil War there were only white males that made up the US population so it is difficult for us as a modern society to relate since we now have women and people of various ethnicities within our population. That's why we have to obsess over soldiers and soldiering experiences of the war, too. There's no room at battlefields to talk about larger effects of war on populations, how a nation ultimately engages in war, the scarring of landscape, shifting economies, or how support comes from homefronts. We have to talk about campaigns! And fighting strategies! And, of course, those quirky stories about uniforms and gun powder. People like that stuff, right? We already have an audience, right? They already like, share, comment, retweet, and sometimes they even visit. They enjoy the posts of a pretty sunset-with-a-cannon picture. They like the name-and-date-and-place trivia, so we are golden, right? Why bother with anything more, right? 

That's when we fall into the trap of pandering. The number of "likes" do not equal interpretive quality. What can you do to answer the "so what" question? How can we do a better job of engaging, sparking interest, and helping create meaning (instead of pandering)? If you know your resources, you have the ability to create an interpretive piece (program, post, video, whatever) that will capture attention and spark further interest. Before you go and pimp, I mean, pander to your audience your knowledge about a site, consider that question. So what?  


P.S. "Because this campaign was important" doesn't work well as an answer to the "so what" question, by the way. It just sounds like an excuse to pander.

And in case there were any questions, yes, I have been there.
Indeed, there are interpretive spaces and content throughout the massive visitor center.






*I would like to acknowledge a point that a friend of mine made in that sometimes social media posts are just there because there is a concept that we need to fill the feeds and sometimes rangers are busy doing ranger-y things and don't necessarily have the time to develop content of substance. I get that. My apologies if that is what this particular example was. However, do we have to post if it isn't a stellar post? A question for a later discussion.
**All opinions here are my own and certainly don't reflect any official stands of my current or past employers. 



Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Weirding the Past

As I wrap up a project I started while working at Andersonville National Historic Site (a site bulletin about The Raiders), I am perplexed about what seems to capture the attention of people. I am also intrigued how often we, as interpreters, use what we know about attention in our telling of the past. Rather than saying "the people of the past were like us," we tend to say "whoa! look how life was different!" What makes better connections with people today?

Instead of "Girls, in the past, you couldn't wear pants!" as a way to catch attention, we might consider conveying to young ladies that women of the past had many of the same character traits or interests. I think that is why the original American Girl book series was so popular. The authors told stories of girls who were smart and engaging and interested in exploring the world around them, who made mistakes, who learned lessons, who had parents and siblings, who were human. The books included historic things, like contemporary events or period clothing (all that skirt(s)? makes it hard to be a rambunctious young lady) but that was not the center of the stories. Girls reading the series (ahem, kids like me) could learn about the past while feeling like she related to that character.

When we tell stories at historic sites, it is easy to fall into the trap of "look! here is a weird story!" It seems to catch attention, right? People react to that story, right? "They didn't have electricity!" [cue the generic "whoaaaa" response]. How about talking about life with what they did have and how they reacted? Fire fueled heat and created light. Fire was common. People didn't think "oh, I wish I had electricity," they adjusted with what they had. That meant places burned and architecture adjusted. That meant women who cooked around fires learned to adjust being around fires. I can't tell you how many house museums I have visited talk about the exorbitant number of women who perished in a fire when their skirts bursted into flames in the kitchen. It might be a house museum rule: you must talk about women dying in fires, petticoat mirrors, and closet taxes. Yes, dying in this manner happened to a few. No, all these notions about women burning to death were just that- notions. The few who died in that manner died tragically and those stories grew. But these folks in the past weren't stupid. They dealt with fire daily; they knew how to act around fire and in the case of fire touching a skirt, natural textile material would not burn so quickly.

The Virginia Historical Society has digitalized some of their collection and it is an amazing resource. Sneden's images are especially helpful. This one is of the gallows for the Raiders at Andersonville.

So back to Andersonville's Raiders. There are six graves that stand isolated from the other over-20,000 graves in the national cemetery at Andersonville. These graves provoke questions. Who were these guys? What did they do to be separated like that? Former interpreters used this story as one of the weird ones, perpetuating myths based on the oddities of the story. They were camp-robbers-turned-killer-criminals! They were ruthless cutthroats who murdered! They hanged for their crimes! They were evil and did not deserve to be buried with the others! But what happens when we take this story (with current research) and convey it so people can relate? Conditions in camp at that time were bad (and yet, not even at its worse). Starvation lurked behind your corner, threatened to take your life at any moment. What would you do to defeat starvation? Would you gamble criminal activity (and potential death) to save yourself from starvation (and potential death)? These men chose stealing and ultimately were put to death for their choice. Maybe there is more to their individual stories, but history is not entirely clear one way or the other who stood as "the bad guys" of the prison population here.

I won't lie: this tool of catching attention with the weirdness from the past is an easy thing to do. But rather than impressing an audience with a quick "ooooooooh," how can you leave them with something more to 1) ponder and 2) engage about?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Bonus Features: The Making of an Interpretive Short Film

I love to read and learn about how films are made.  Whenever I get a new internet device I always bookmark the IMDB first, because I know I'll be referencing it a lot.  I love bonus features and director's commentaries on movies.  It's so cool to learn about the choices the directors, producers, and actors made.  After spending a week and a half working on a series of short interpretive videos for Andersonville National Historic Site's Memorial Day commemorations, one of my colleagues posted a picture of me recording some audio on their Facebook page.

This image sparked a discussion about how to do short videos.
True story: Tossing a blanket over your head and recording
audio on a cell phone yields pretty good results.
It immediately prompted several interpreters from other sites to comment and say "I wish I could do that!" Or "How do you make these videos?"  Elizabeth quickly sent me a message and said "Hey Chris, you should totally do a behind the scenes blog post on how you make these things."  Since the videos went up I've had more than one park ranger contact to me to say "How'd you do that?"   So, here I am in a coffee shop (on my off day) offering up a few thoughts on my experiences with short form interpretive film making.

First things first: You are always an interpreter. Using video is just a tool for your craft.  Let your interpretive thoughts and motivations drive what you do - not necessarily the shot or the effect.

Secondly, as you get started - ask around!  There are a lot of folks out there making short films and many are willing to help you out if you reach out.  Even if you aren't comfortable making a personal request, quite a few of these folks are bloggers and talk a lot about their craft.  Read what they write.  Watch their films.  My personal favorites that I watch are "Yosemite Steve" - who is a filmmaker in Yosemite National Park and produces the wildly popular "Nature Notes" series.  Also, one of my  friends is a media producer at Tufts University, and his videos highlighting research at the school are stellar.  Additionally, you can head over to the Desktop Documentaries blog, which happened to interview my  previously mentioned friend from Tufts about how he makes mini-documentaries.  The more you watch, the more ideas you get for framing shots, or even shots you may try to duplicate to an extent.  Writers tend to read a lot of books and if you're going to be making videos, well you should probably watch a lot of videos.     

Don't pick up the camera until you've planed what you want
to shoot and where you want to shoot.


Here we go, into the nitty gritty (which I'll keep short).

First of all - Your equipment does not have to be fancy.  I use a Nikon dSLR (the d3200 and d5100) with kit lenses to shoot most footage, although I frequently use flipcams and cell phones to capture spontaneous footage - interviews during events, etc...  Even for audio I just use a free app on the cell phone and toss a blanket over my head.





Step 1 - Identify the interpretive connection you wanted to make.  For our Memorial Day videos "A Story in Stone" we wanted to connect people to stories beyond the Civil War prison site.  Then for each grave we selected we identified an interpretive angle for each film.  For example - for our John Jameson video we wanted to convey the idea that every young soldier who died was lost potential.

Step 2 - Write the script.  An interpretive video intended for social media should be kept to 2 minutes or less, if at all possible.  If it is much longer than that people won't watch - most folks won't even start the film if they see that timer say 5 or 6 minutes or longer. That means 5-7 sentences at max by the time you have an intro and an outro.  Script writing is different from long form writing - there's not time or room to elaborate or details or side stories.  Chose each word carefully and make them count.

Step 3 - Plan your shots.  Decide what you want on the screen before you ever pick up the camera.  The pros call this storyboarding, which makes it sound fancier than it really is.  You can use a pre made form like this. I just simply write out my script and over each line jot out a note describing what I want visually on the screen.


Step 4 - Video!   Don't pick up the camera until this point.  Most people get into trouble by shooting and then planning around what they shot.  Nope.  Plan first, then shoot what you planned.  For example, I knew in our Samuel Vernon video I wanted to highlight a girl placing flowers at the grave.  From watching a lot of other videos, I really like the look of somebody back-lit by the sun.  So I planned for our young volunteer to come out to the park one one day when the sun would be at the right angle.  And that's the shot you see at around 1:14 mark.


Step 5 - Edit.  This is probably the most intimidating part for an interpreter trying to create a video.  It shouldn't be.  Digital editing is designed to be easy to grasp even for beginners.  If you've got a Mac, congratulations - you've got a really nice video editor iMovie.  If you're got a PC, congratulations, you've probably got Windows Movie Maker installed.  These will work for sharing an interpretive story to your website or social media page.  Don't start out trying to do crazy titles and edits.  Most consumer video editors have default titles that you can use.  If you've story boarded literally all you're doing is putting your shots in order and exporting to a file format that works (I like .mp4, but there are a lot of others).  If you need drop in appropriate still images - Ken Burns does this really well, and there are a lot of images on the Library of Congress website.  One piece of editing advice - in the world of interpretive web videos, people have really short attention spans, so put all your credits and stuff on the back end, otherwise they'll tune out before they actually get to your video.  I've learned that one from experience.   

A good thumbnail will help spread
your story.  People want to click to
see more. 
Step 6 - Share!  Even if you don't have a site youtube channel you can still put it on the park's website or Facebook page.  Facebook really likes videos in their algorithms for what they share.  You can even schedule the videos for an optimum time and change the thumbnail - which for the record selecting the right thumbnail will do a lot to drive views up.  There's a reason a LOT of people clicked on the Samuel Vernon video.

That's it.  Six easy steps to creating an interpretive video.  Throughout the process - remember you are an interpreter first.  Your video could literally be a single shot of you telling a story and it can still be effective.  Don't believe me?  Check out www.learntheaddress.org

 

       



*As aforementioned, all content produced here has been written in my free time and does not reflect the official opinion of my employer.